When It Rains It Pours

After our success in exploring the phrase “more or less” in many languages here is a task of a similar nature

There is a saying in Hebrew: 

“Troubles come in packages” 

צרות באות בצרורות 

“Tzarot Baot bitzrorot”.

 I am curious about analogs in other languages of this phrase.

Is there such a phrase in your language? (Or some other language that you know.) And what does it literally sais? Please, please contribute! (Other comments, links, and relevant pictures are welcomed.)

I got interested in this saying in the context of studying noise-models for fault-tolerant computation and specifically spontaneous error-synchronization, it  can also serve us also in the context of financial collapses.

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59 Responses to When It Rains It Pours

  1. pravesh says:

    In Hindi, it is called “Jab Bhagwaan deta hai to chhappar faad kar deta hai”

  2. aw says:

    In German: “Unglueck kommt selten allein.”

  3. atri says:

    I was going to write the same phrase as Pravesh. it means the following “When God gives, he’ll give so much that your roof will collapse.”

  4. roland says:

    “Unglueck kommt selten allein.” verbatim translation:
    “One calamity seldom stays alone.”
    I know it’s no proper english

  5. Jonas says:

    In swedish: “en olycka kommer sällan ensam” – “a misfortune seldom comes alone”. This is much like the german version.

  6. Per says:

    The Swedish version: “En olycka kommer sällan ensam”, which can be translated as “A woe seldom comes alone” (i.e., very similar to the German one)

  7. Louigi says:

    English is more specific: Bad luck comes in threes.

  8. Mugizi says:

    I was going to give such a phrase in Swahili, but I couldn’t think of any.

    Either I’ve forgotten it or it doesn’t exist.

    Which got me thinking: Could there be some cultural significance if a language doesn’t have this phrase? Hmmm…

    • Reshef says:

      The obvious explanation is that the axioms of probability and variance differ in different parts of the world.

  9. Jon Awbrey says:

    The more venerable adage in English is — “It never rains but it pours”.

    Of course, the turn of phrase exploited by the Morton Salt slogan implies that “Even when (the weather) is rainy, (the salt) pours”, so the two predicates apply to different subjects.

    Exercise for the Reader. How is this like modus ponens under the “propositions as types” analogy?

  10. Andrei zelevinsky says:

    In Russian: Беда не приходит одна (verbatim: A misfortune does not come alone).

  11. mircea petrache says:

    Latin: Malis mala succedunt
    literally: troubles are followed by troubles

    Italian: 1) I mali non vengono mai da soli 2) una disgrazia tira l’altra
    literally: 1) troubles never come alone 2) one calamity pulls the other

  12. Melkor says:

    In Croatian: Nevolja nikad ne dolazi sama.
    English translation: Trouble never comes alone.

  13. Louigi says:

    I thought about “It never rains but it pours,” but it can also be used in positive situations, no?

  14. J-P Burelle says:

    In french,
    “Un malheur ne vient jamais seul”
    which would mean “misfortune never comes alone”.

    In latin, I believe there is something pretty similar :
    Abyssus abyssum invocat
    which means something like “The abyss attracts the abyss”

    There are a couple of other translations on the french wiktionary:

  15. Mihai says:

    The closest Romanian equivalent seems to be more metaphorical:

    “La omul necăjit, nici boii nu trag”
    Roughly: For the unhappy man, even the oxen won’t pull.

  16. aravind says:

    Tamil: “Patta Kaalilaeyae Padum” (the foot that got hurt, will get hurt again)

  17. David Wind says:


    “En ulykke kommer sjældent alene”

    Same as the Swedish and German version.

  18. GM Hurley says:

    In British English, I think “it never rains but it pours” would be the equivalent. But it may be a regional phrase (it’s notably untrue for much of the British Isles), and Louigi has an interesting point. English is spoken in lots of countries where rain is a rare and good thing, and the sense would be positive.

    Shakespeare’s version has never really caught on:
    “When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
    But in battalions.”

  19. A says:

    Latvian: “Nelaime nenāk viena” – “Trouble does not come alone”

  20. Caterina says:

    In catalan: “Sempre plou sobre mullat”, it always rains where it is already wet…

    In spanish: “Siempre llueve sobre mojado”, same as in catalan

  21. Rune says:

    Slightly unrelated, but it’s interesting to note how some phrases have the same meaning, but use different objects in the phrase. For example, I don’t know why the equivalent of “shooting oneself in the foot” in many Indo-European languages has no mention of a gun, but instead an axe or a hoe. I guess it’s because guns are too recent for these languages, but English is a newer language?

  22. Lukáš Lánský says:

    In Czech: „Neštěstí nechodí nikdy samo.“, it means “misfortune never comes alone”. We also have nice saying „Neštěstí nechodí po horách, ale po lidech.“, which means “misfortune don’t walk across mountains, it walks across people” 🙂

  23. Shahab says:

    In Persian : “هر چی سنگه مال پای لنگه”
    which means : “All the stones come in the way of the one who limps”

  24. William huang says:

    In chinese:”祸不单行”
    it means”Misfortunes never come singly”

  25. Carsten S says:

    It is very interesting to type „Ein Unglück kommt selten allein“ (“A misfortune comes rarely alone”) into translate.google.com.

    Ein Unglück
    An accident

    Ein Unglück kommt
    It never rains

    Ein Unglück kommt selten
    When It Rains

    Ein Unglück kommt selten allein.
    Misfortunes never come singly.

    So it has seen the expressions, but still does not really get there and produces very wrong partial translations.

  26. Dimitris says:

    In ancient Greek (and still used in modern Greek): ενός κακού μύρια έπονται, meaning “one bad incident is followed by many more.”

  27. Cícero Vargas says:

    In Portuguese: “A desgraça nunca vem só.” (Misfortune never comes alone.)

  28. mckuk says:

    In Polish: “Nieszczęścia chodzą parami.” (Misfortunes walk in pairs.)

  29. vinay says:

    In Hindi, the line says ‘Gharibi me aataa geela.’ It is translated as ‘You are poor, and the bread dough you prepared has excess water.’ (The implication is that Misfortune comes in packages. You do not have any more flour left to tighten the dough – bread cannot be made any more and you will have to go hungry.)

  30. A. Karttunen says:

    In Finnish:
    “Ei kahta ilman kolmannetta.” ~ “No two (accidents or other cases of bad luck), without the third.”
    and related, although with a different sense:
    “Vahinko ei tule kello kaulassa.” ~ “An accident will not come with a bell tied to its neck.” (like cows used to have.)

  31. Responding to my linking to this page from my facebook page:

    Alan Newcomer —
    big things come in small packages?
    Waiting for the other shoe to drop?
    Three on a match?
    Things come in threes?

    Angel Jose Arango —
    ”No hay mal que dure mil anos”
    ”Las desgracias nunca vienen solas”
    ”Siempre que llueve, escampa”

    Antti Karttunen —
    In Finnish: “Ei kahta ilman kolmannetta.” ~ “No two (accidents), without the third.”
    “Vahinko ei tule kello kaulassa.” ~ “An accident will not come with a bell tied to its neck.” (like cows used to have.)

  32. German has a very particular analogue: “Das Gesetz der Serie”. This is the title of a work on coincidences by Paul Kammerer, but is a common social phrase in Germany when multiple things go wrong. There is a recent serious mathematical analogue in ergodic theory, summarized in this Scholarpedia article, and by the authors Downarowicz and Lacroix themselves in this readable page.

    Of course I recognize the Hebrew proverb from your How Quantum Computers Can Fail paper.

  33. Serdar says:

    I will make a guess in Turkish: “Dertler derya olmus”. Actually, this is an excerpt from a song once very popular in Turkey. Better or more descriptive translations can be found, I guess.

  34. Mugizi says:

    I just thought of one in Swahili:

    “Mbuzi wa maskini hazai” – Literally “A poor man’s goat does not produce [kids]”

    i.e an unfortunate person will continue to have bad luck.

    Somewhat different, but a similar idea.

  35. Gábor Pete says:

    Hungarian: A baj nem jár egyedül. According to the above, the exact same expression as in Russian, Croatian, Czech, Latvian, Portuguese, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Chinese. The old Greek is almost the same, maybe not exactly. But the Latin is different. Is it from the Bible?

    There’s a related Hungarian saying, similar to the Rumanian one: Szegény embert az ág is húzza. = A poor man is held back even by the branches.

  36. aw Says:
    March 6, 2010 at 12:47 am
    In German: “Unglueck kommt selten allein.”

    In Dutch we have the same saying: “Een ongeluk komt zelden alleen.”

  37. Gil Kalai says:

    Dear all,
    many many thanks for all your contributions

  38. editor-olga-shulman-lednichenko says:

    צרות באות בצרורות: i have my own. j

    Core Dump = Bolshoi not Pokito:

    Дамп = Большого не Pokito

    you wanted photos: but i cant attach photo here: so, I point you here ->http://houseofajay.blogspot.com/2010/04/olga-lednichenko-quizzes-and-brain.html


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  40. Valentas says:

    Lithuanian: “Bėda viena nevaikšto” – “Trouble does not walk alone”;
    “Viena bėda – ne bėda” – “One problem is not a problem”.

  41. Thomas says:

    In Japan they say When crying stung by bee.

  42. Kei Tran says:

    In Sino-Vietnamese: “Họa Vô Đơn Chí”
    Nice page!!!

  43. agripro says:

    In Chinese: “福不双至,祸不单行” (Fu bu shuang zhi, huo bu dan xing) – literally “good fortune never comes in two, (while) bad luck never comes alone”

  44. In Bulgarian : “Злото никога не идва само!” – translates “Evil/bad luck never comes alone”.

  45. Paul says:

    I remember my Mother saying: “It seldom rains, but what it pours”.

  46. AhMedRMaaty says:

    In Arabic we say: المصائب لا تأتي فرادي
    literally means: disasters don’t come alone

  47. ABKhan says:

    In URDU

    “Musibat kabhi akeelay nahi aati”


    difficulties never come alone

  48. James George says:

    I noticed that any website offering alternative phrases to “When it rains, it pours,” are all related to something negative going on. But the idiom can also refer to a positive outcome, which the ad agency that originally developed the phrase intended as a tag line for Morton Salt. Here are some other examples of using the phrase for something good happening: one might say, “Five companies contacted me just in the last week, after not getting any responses after three months into my job search; they all want to interview me after reading my resume! Wow, when it rains [job interviews], it pours.” Or, “I got two compliments today. Unbelievable. When it rains [compliments], it pours!” Of course, the idiom is now a cliche, so the real task is to come up with alternative (ideally, fresh) idiomatic phrases that suggest the same idea. Anyone want to take that on?
    Hmmmm, I didn’t think so.

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  50. Shahjee says:

    In Urdu,

    Museebat akeley nahin aati.
    (Trouble never come alone)

  51. Ewa says:

    In Polish language
    “Nieszczescia chodza parami”
    Disasters comes in pairs”

  52. SomeRandomName says:

    In french: “Un malheur n’arrive jamais seul”

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  54. Bee says:

    another one in German: “Wenn’s kommt, dann kommt’s dicke”. (When it comes, it comes big).


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